Yes, you can get fired in many places in the US without a written warning.
However, as any employee, you should be able to handle this piece of information, although it might sound scary. Although your boss can fire you without a written warning, they won’t just do it at the drop of a hat.
In fact, as an employee, you, too, have certain rights, and you can claim compensation if you feel your employer wrongfully terminated you without adequate warning. If a boss terminates an employee abruptly, it’s quite possible that the employee was responsible for some serious issues in the workplace or did something extremely unethical that made immediate termination necessary.
However, most employers will follow a disciplinary procedure before handing the termination letter to the employee. They will only fire you without written warning when they know they are protected by law because you had signed a contract while joining that says they retain the right to fire you anytime.
Therefore, knowing your rights and safeguarding yourself is important if your employer terminates you suddenly. It will also make you more mindful and avoid mistakes that could otherwise give your employer another reason to fire you.
When Can Your Employer Fire You Without Warning?
In the US, employers can fire you without warning for any reason at all. Here are some cases where they may have an added incentive for doing so:
- You have ignored previous verbal warnings.
- You have tried to disrupt the workplace with your discriminatory behavior or toxic comments.
- You regularly make mistakes at work that have led to company losses.
- You have been found guilty of crimes like embezzlement or trying to steal company secrets.
- You break the company rules or twist them to suit your needs.
- You had signed a contract that says employers reserve the right to fire you at any time.
- The company is downsizing, and they are not just letting you go, but many others of your coworkers. You are one among the many to be handed the pink slip for no fault of your own.
It is important to remember that an employer’s priority is their company, and they will not stand for anything that may jeopardize the company’s future. And if that means getting rid of an employee immediately, they will do it. Hence, it would be best to remember not to give them reasons to terminate you without warning.
What Does The Employer Face For Firing You Without Warning?
Nothing prevents employers from firing you whenever they feel there are no long-term repercussions for the management. However, depending on where you reside, there are a few things that the employer may face for firing you without warning.
1. Paying Damages
Your employer must pay damages if they fire you without adequate warning and for discriminatory reasons.
You have to prove in a court of law that you were fired for discriminatory reasons, including discrimination based on sex, color, race, ethnicity, gender, or age.
Be mindful that if you want to take your employer to court, you must know that the reason was only discrimination and nothing else. You will achieve nothing by trying to prove that your employer was discriminating when they weren’t.
If your employers can prove in their defense that the fault was with you, you will have to pay damages for trying to tarnish their reputation. Wrongful dismissal damages can be quite high as the court often considers several factors like the employee’s age, years spent serving the company, re-employability chances, designation, work experience, and much more.
2. Severance Pay
Some employers are mindful that sudden termination will affect their employees, and they may drag the matter to court and seek compensation. To avoid that, they agree to pay a severance package to the employees.
They know that if things go against them, they may have to pay a much larger compensation if the court orders it. They want to avoid going through that hassle. They will offer a severance package for the employee’s needs until they find employment elsewhere.
Even if the employee feels the package is too low, it’s better than turning them away empty-handed, which could lead to other problems later. Some employers have insurance packages for this reason from the beginning.
3. Loss of Reputation
Even if your employer gets away with the law, if word gets around that an organization dismisses employees without warning, it is bound to suffer a loss of reputation.
Talented and experienced professionals will steer clear from the company, and other employers may leave and find employment elsewhere. The company will suffer losses, and people with a sense of morale might refuse to work with them.
Hence, if employers feel that firing employees without warning will put them in a difficult position, they will refrain from doing it unless the employee did something unforgivable in extreme cases.
What is The Ideal Way of Terminating an Employee?
Ideally, an employer usually follows a disciplinary trail before firing an employee.
- First, they should approach the employee casually and tell them what is wrong.
- If the employee does not make amends, they should be warned verbally. Most employers will often give more than one verbal warning to let the employee rectify their errors. It may or may not be included in the employee records depending on the company rules.
- If the employee still does not improve, the employers will give them a written warning. The written warning will enter the employee records.
- If the employee does not heed the written warning, the employer will be free to take disciplinary action against them.
- Depending on the result, the employer is free to fire the employee if they find that the employee has transgressed in many areas.
However, although this might seem the ideal way, many companies have their own rules for termination. Many employees also complain of a lack of transparency and favoritism. Besides, there is no way the general employees come to know about the decisions made behind the management’s closed doors.
As an employee, you can ask HR about the termination process and ask to see the company rule book if you are fired without warning. Many companies get away with unethical practices by simply hiding the policies from the employees and taking advantage of their ignorance.
What Can You Do to Prevent Being Fired Without Warning?
While many employees undertake legal action, many do not have the time or resources to fight a legal battle with big organizations. There is very little you can do not to get fired. If the employers have decided to let you go, they will find some reason to make that happen, with or without warning.
Nevertheless, here are some things you can do to prevent it.
1. Follow Rules
Follow the company rules at all times. Do not give your employers any reason to fire you by breaking the rules. If you disagree with something, have a proper discussion with your manager instead of going your way.
Employers do not want employees who disrupt the workplace; they will only use this against you if they want to fire you.
2. Read The Contract
While joining an organization, read the employment contract carefully. Go to the section about termination and see what protocol the employers follow during termination.
If it says that the employers retain the right to fire employees any time they want, enquire about the severance packages and employee insurance so that you know what you will end up with in case you are abruptly fired.
3. Research State Laws
Research state laws to know your employment rights. If you are in an “At Will” state, know about the unemployment benefits you can get after being fired. How long will those benefits last?
Is there a minimum time for which you have to be with a company for those benefits? Under what conditions can you seek damages in case of sudden termination? These will help you prepare yourself.
4. Enquire About Unions
Being part of an employee union can help at certain times, especially during sudden terminations, which may be unethical.
The union body does the job of fighting for the rights of the employees. You can choose to be a part of such a body if they will safeguard your interest.
Getting fired can be a traumatizing experience, even more so when fired without warning. However, the worst can happen to the best of people, and you should always have an emergency fund in place to take care of your finances and needs if such a thing ever happens.
You will be in a much better position to turn around and seek employment again if you do not need money. Start looking for a new job as soon as possible, and make a fresh start.